Frank revelations from our unmissable sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie)
Ping. A WhatsApp notification appears on my phone and an involuntary Cheshire Cat grin spreads across my face. It’s a message from the new man. I’m watching some vacuous TV with my teenagers and my daughter spots my smile and asks, her face crumpled with a mix of disdain and intrigue, ‘What is wrong with you?’
I feel more like a teenager than my teenagers. My body and brain react to the words on the screen with a surge of joy. It’s a physiological reaction that feels a bit Pavlov’s dog – only instead of salivating over an approaching bowl of Winalot, I’m psyched by the thought of a dinner date and the potential afters.
If the dopamine hit from a mate complimenting you rates as a one, then a text from a love interest is ten times that. Who’d have thought a phone could be such a harbinger of thrills? When I was married my phone was a vehicle that brought me the latest nit news (outbreak in class 4J, mobilise the Hedrin) and was used to send practical messages to my husband – ‘Please can you pick up four pints of semi-skimmed and a cake that could pass as homemade for the school fête.’ Now, my mobile is a portal to pleasure.
My married mates are jealous. Though, of course, they haven’t been on the receiving end of ghosting or unsolicited photographs of unmentionables. But they are envious of the sexual frisson that comes from messaging.
It can be hot. Make your head swim, your blood pump. It can stoke the flames of desire. Feel like you are 15 again. And sometimes I feel that naive.
When I started dating post-marriage my ignorance around messaging got me into trouble. I must have been the only adult alive that, until a few years ago, didn’t know the significance of an aubergine emoji.
I realised quite quickly there’s a whole new symbolic language I need to familiarise myself with.
If the aubergine is rude, the aubergine next to the doughnut next to a splash is seriously rude. The rhino speaks for itself.
Plus, I now know that sending a photo of yourself looking hot (fire emoji) is technically described as a ‘thirst trap’. Aka ‘a type of social media image used to entice the viewer sexually’.
Which brings us on to pictures. I’ve learnt that when guys say ‘send me a photo’ they don’t mean of your dahlias. And that the men who ask are generally creeps.
But what about when you have progressed from messaging to ‘seeing someone’ – where’s the harm in deploying a bikini shot? I sound out Benjamin Daly, who is an easy-on-the-eye property developer turned dating guru and my new BFF (he doesn’t know this yet). His Instagram posts consist of him in a poloneck dispensing advice to women on how to keep their boundaries and recognise their worth. (I am watching how his trademark turtleneck shtick goes in 25-degree heat.)
He is firm. ‘Don’t send any pictures you might regret. If guys are asking for nudes and you haven’t met them yet, you need to seriously question their motives.’
Nudes?! The internet does not need a picture of me in the altogether. Instead I wonder in a modern relationship, when does the messaging progress to – gasp – speaking?
Because in the dating world an actual conversation is rarer than body hair.
Speaking on the phone now seems more intimate than showing them your naked self, or giving them your card pin number.
In fact, in my last few relationships, I’ve discovered that having a real-life phone call with a new love interest comes a long time after you’ve slept with them, way beyond your first holiday and quite possibly post your first row. In some circumstances, I reckon it would be possible to reach the prenup stage before you get to hear someone’s phone voice.
These days voice calls are so extraordinary that when a friend of mine decided to ring a guy she had been dating for six months he was left so shocked that he had to talk to his therapist about it (true story).
Actually, I’m quite looking forward to phone chats with a boyfriend. But until that happens I’m also keeping the flirtatious messages.
Because alongside TV remote autonomy, they are one of the good things to come from divorce.
So ping me, yeah?